By Olivia Turner | Staff Writer
Over 90 countries are represented in the Baylor student body. Some of these groups contains hundreds, some dozens and some with a sole student representing their nation.
According to Baylor Institutional Research, 38% of Baylor students belonged to a racial or ethnic minority in 2022. Of this 38%, there were only three Cameroonian students on campus, making up 0.0001% of the 20,709 students on campus as of fall 2022 enrollment.
Since then, some of Baylor’s only Cameroonian students, Lanham, Md., seniors Marie and Annette Moukoury, said the numbers have risen to include a few more Cameroonians, but overall, this group is one of the smallest racial minorities
“My first few weeks at Baylor were really lonely,” Marie said.
Coming from her relatively large French-Cameroonian community in Maryland, Marie said beginning her college life at Baylor was a culture shock. Many of her high school friends back home were Cameroonian as well, so finding others on campus who were able to identify with her and her twin sister Annette’s culture was difficult, but not impossible.
Annette said one of the ways she was able to connect with a few other Cameroonian students during her sophomore year was by making a group chat, inviting anyone she knew of who was Cameroonian. Though she could only find about five fellow Cameroonians, the connection she made helped bolster her sense of community, she said.
Another way the twins were able to connect to cultures similar to theirs was through Baylor’s African Student Association. Marie said, it has been one of the most positive experiences she can recall having, and if she hadn’t found the group, she would have transferred out of Baylor.
“No matter where you’re from, ASA accepts you and embraces you,” Marie said. “As soon as I joined freshman year, I loved it and I didn’t feel different.”
Marie said within the group, there have been many opportunities for her to share her Cameroonian roots with fellow Africans. Marie and Annette said they enjoy sharing their favorite Cameroonian dishes, music and French language with other members. Additionally, they have also been able to experience the beauty of other African cultures, they said.
One of the ways Marie said ASA is able to celebrate their African roots together as a group is through dance. Marie said she can recall seeing the dancers from ASA at the Mosaic Mixer her freshman year and decided there that she wanted to try out. Since then, she and Annette have been on the dance team, with Marie becoming dance chair by her sophomore year.
“We’re able to incorporate so many dance styles, like Nigerian dance styles, French-Cameroonian, French Congolese and Caribbean dance styles into our routines and into our performances, and that made performances so much better because we weren’t just performing our own things, but were sharing our culture with everyone,” Marie said. “Everyone there is African, so everyone understands the way you talk, your culture, the music you’re playing, the dance moves you’re doing. It’s the one place where being African feels kind of normal.”
While aspects of Baylor like ASA have been welcoming to Marie and Annette and their Cameroonian culture, there are some areas where being Cameroonian has been difficult.
Annette said she has found it tricky to make some of her favorite dishes while being in Waco, since many of the Cameroonian foods she enjoys making for herself and her friends, are cassava-based dishes.
“Here in Waco there are like no international grocery stores, so it’s hard to find ingredients,” Annette said.
In order to still enjoy Cameroonian foods from her culture, Annette said she substitutes different ingredients for cassava, creating a nontraditional but still delicious version. She said she is able to make one of her favorites, Poulet DG, out of chicken, tomatoes and veggies — all ingredients she can find easily at H-E-B.
Annette said one of the reasons she is so adamant about sharing her culture through things like food, music and dance is because she believes representation of African cultures is incredibly significant. She said she encourages students who have yet to find a group like ASA to simply start looking.
“Be open to meeting new people and understand other people’s culture, as well as your own,” Annette said. “When you learn to embrace and appreciate and love your culture, having a space to share that is so important.”